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'Indian Matchmaking' creator Smriti Mundhra reflects on criticism of the show

"The job of the show is to just be honest," Mundhra told TODAY of the Netflix series, which returned for a second season on August 10.
INDIAN MATCHMAKING. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022Courtesy of Netflix / Courtesy of Netflix

According to its creator Smriti Mundhra, "Indian Matchmaking" is a show meant to start conversations about the "real world" — and Season One, which dropped on Netflix in July 2020, certainly did that.

In its depiction of the matchmaking process, "Indian Matchmaking" received backlash from viewers, with some pointing out the show's enforcement of stereotypes like colorism, sexism, body image-related comments, heteronormativity and more through casually dropped comments in conversations between matchmaker and client.

Criticism has also been leveled by members of the cast: Aparna Shewakramani decided not to work with matchmaker Sima Taparia in Season Two, telling TODAY they had a difference in values. “The tension was that I’m more progressive and I view partnerships as equal between a man and a woman if it’s a heterosexual woman," she said.

Fans were also disappointed that Taparia, who boasts about her famous success rate, created zero successful matches in the first season. Taparia told TODAY she was unbothered by her success rate on the show. "This is all destiny, nothing is in my hands. If the destiny is there, if the couple is aligned together, then it happens," she said.

So when Season Two was officially announced, fans were eager to know what direction the new season would take — and whether it would follow the old format, or create something new.

Turns out Season Two, which was announced earlier this year, hews closely to Season One's format. Taparia works with former clients like Nadia Jagessar, and, armed with her biodata collection, also meets a new group of singles in the U.S. and India. Her oft-reiterated saying throughout the season is that it's not possible find a 100 percent match, so her clients should learn to settle for 60 to 70 percent.

Mundhra, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, told TODAY that when she set out on creating the latest season, she was seeking to "expand the conversation" that Season One sparked, rather than change due to backlash.

"It's about what do we learn about ourselves, and about the things that we've accepted and internalized and maybe the ways that we've changed," Mundhra said. "So we wanted to continue to do that in Season Two, and also dig even deeper into those conversations around aspects of our culture that make sense for us ... and the aspects of our culture that require examining to see if they're relevant today or not."

When asked if she thinks Season Two addressed the backlash surrounding negative stereotypes from Season One, Mundhra responded that she feels the show is meant to show the world as it is, which includes the "problematic" aspects of South Asian culture.

"The job of the show is to just be honest ... and show the ways in which we as people are changing and maybe recognizing some of our own biases and things that we've internalized and questioning why," Mundhra said. "It's really (about) holding up a mirror to what it is, as opposed to us as a show trying to put a filter on it, so to speak."

What brings me immense joy and satisfaction as a producer is engaging in those meaningful conversations. Like yeah, let's talk about it."

Smriti Mundhra

According to Mundhra, the intention of the show is not to critique or change the narrative, but rather to capture the conversation.

As seen by the chatter that Season One created, it's likely that Season Two will be similarly buzzy. But Mundhra emphasized that as the executive producer, she hopes the show — and its ensuing conversations — can make a difference in the South Asian community, both in the subcontinent and in the diaspora.

"I've always been willing to engage in a meaningful conversation that's come out of the show, because I think that's the goal," she said. "What brings me immense joy and satisfaction as a producer is engaging in those meaningful conversations. Like yeah, let's talk about it."

But it's not clear if the show plans to further address any of the claims surrounding a lack of inclusivity as it looks ahead to Season Three. The show focuses on mostly high-level castes, straight couples and mostly Hindus (though Arshneel of Season Two is Sikh, and speaks openly about how his religion intersects with his dating life).

Mundhra pointed to Taparia's limited database of people to choose from as a reason for the mostly homogenous cast and potential matches.

"Sima is the matchmaker on this show. She's an old school lady. She's definitely capable of evolving with the times, but she is a woman of her generation and a product of her generation," Mundhra said.

In Season Two, viewers finally get to see a proposal and a wedding, but not one featuring a match that Taparia orchestrated. When asked if she felt the show strayed from what it was originally intended to do in Season Two — show Taparia's Indian matchmaking skills — Mundhra responded that she doesn't think the show is necessarily about "the mechanics of Sima's process."

"The show is about people, about characters, that's what keeps people watching," she said. "I think what gets people's hearts on the show and really invested is the characters. It's the people and their journeys and their struggles and their backstories."

Season Two of "Indian Matchmaking" premieres on Netflix on August 10. The show was renewed for Season Three, though an official premiere date has not yet been announced.